BAY AREA NEWS GROUP – EAST BAY
BARGAINING BULLETIN # 7
PLEASANTON – East Bay Guild negotiators pressed the issue of work locations and proposed trying to find ways to reduce commute expenses during the latest round of contract talks Thursday.
The Guild team also offered a partial list of high-priority bargaining points employees intend to emphasize, all of which turn on the general point of achieving parity gains relative to the San Jose Mercury News workforce.
Guild members in the East Bay MediaNews bargaining unit are paid 30 percent less on average than Guild members in the South Bay, even though the two units increasingly do the same work for the same managers. The East Bay staff works longer hours, receive lower mileage reimbursement, have less job security, endure less flexible scheduling, and have longer probationary periods.
The Guild told management representatives that pay issues remain the single most important concern in the East Bay. As expected, management responded with its usual litany of woe, saying that double-digit declines are being recorded in ad categories including local retail, national and classified. “We’re continuing, but we’ve been challenged,” said MediaNews senior vice president/general counsel Marshall Anstandig. “We’re not in the position of being able to give increases.”
In response, database editor Danny Willis pressed for continuing innovation and renewed preservation of other kinds of value: “Yes, you have to keep costs in check, but Alden (Global Capital) has to understand that they bought into an industry not just as a speculative investment, but went in with the understanding that it needs to be kept afloat. … If you have to make cuts, then you must preserve our product, our good name.”
Some union priorities, however, don’t even involve spending more money. That is one reason we intend to push for gains in such areas as protection against involuntary transfers and more freedom to work at locations closer to home. Many will recall that the copy desk was consolidated in Walnut Creek which forced the San Jose copy editors to relocate from the South Bay and accept inferior East Bay terms and conditions including a big pay cut. Many of these workers have endured long commutes ever since. It may be possible to re-visit that and try to reduce their burden in some way.
Expenses are another important sticking point. In the East Bay, Guild-covered employees are reimbursed 45 cents for each mile driven on company business — below the IRS standard of 56.5 cents. San Jose Guild members now get 58 cents a mile.
We pressed the management to respond to a persistent rumor of a de facto hiring freeze in the East Bay editorial department. “We’re being very sensitive to positions we’re trying to fill. There is no blanket statement (against filling open positions). Higher sensitivity? Sure,” said MediaNews vice-president Jim Janiga.
Bargaining is set to resume March 26 at 1 p.m. in Oakland.
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For the Guild: George Kelly, Danny Willis, Kat Anderson and Carl Hall (staff).
For the management: Andy Huntington, Marshall Anstandig, Shannon Hogan, Jim Janiga.